The Next Step in Controlling Games is With Your Brain Says Gabe Newell
It's all in your head
Gabe Newell, the co-founder of Valve, thinks your expensive gaming mouse and Xbox elite controller are hot garbage. Instead, the future of controlling games to Newell lies directly in player’s brains. In an interview with New Zealand’s News One, Newell spoke on brain-computer interfaces, or BCIs, and how they will change gaming in the years to come.
According to Newell, Valve has been studying and working on uses for BCIs for the past several years. BCIs essentially link a user’s mind and their computer, allowing signals from one to affect the other and vice versa. While this sounds like something you’d find in Cyberpunk 2077, it’s not. BCIs are entirely real, and the applications that Newell has dreamed up could potentially change the way we play games and perceive the world.
To ship BCIs to the public, Valve is currently developing open-source BCI software that will let developers see what’s going on in a player’s head as they’re playing. In cases like these, the BCI would be built into a VR headset. “We’re working on an open-source project so that everybody can have high-resolution [brain signal] read technologies built into headsets, in a bunch of different modalities,” Newell said. Pursuing this, Valve is working with OpenBCI, a company that specifically designs BCI software. The company recently designed a headset, called Galea, made to work with VR headsets, including Valve’s Index.
Using a BCI headset, developers can tell if a player is getting bored, excited, or sad. These signals will then travel to a computer, changing the game based on how a player is feeling. However, it’s not just a one-way street. Newell acknowledged that BCIs would be able to write signals into people’s brains. This would effectively make players see and feel things happening in their games. Of course, that’s compared to what Newell called our “meat peripherals,” or eyes and ears.
“You’re used to experiencing the world through eyes, but eyes were created by this low-cost bidder that didn’t care about failure rates and RMAs,” Newell said. “And if it got broken there was no way to repair anything effectively, which totally makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, but is not at all reflective of consumer preferences.”
By using brain-computer interfaces, Newell believes games can give players visual experiences that look even better than reality. “The real world will seem flat, colorless, blurry compared to the experiences you’ll be able to create in people’s brains,” Newell said.
While all this sounds morally and ethically dubious, the concept of BCIs gets flat-out creepy when Newell begins describing how they can be used to change people.
According to Newell, BCIs will let people edit their own feelings, or even control how much sleep they get at night. They can even be used to suppress some emotions for therapeutic reasons, although this is all well down the line. Newell won’t have Valve begin selling BCIs just yet since there’s still so much research going into them.
It’s not clear when this tech will hit markets, but one thing’s for certain – it’s out there. The only question remaining is whether or not consumers will be willing to link their gaming rigs directly to their brains.